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Games can rival Hollywood

So says Conan film producer.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Games can be art, Conan the Barbarian movie producer Fredrik Malmberg has told Eurogamer - and Hollywood is "seriously" looking at them as rival entertainment.

"Hell, yeah!! Games are definitely an art form," Malmberg enthused, "So much passion goes into games, both from players and from people who make them."

"Hollywood is seriously looking at games but has a hard time understanding the business," he added. "I don't think games threaten Hollywood; in my experience gamers are usually uber-consumers when it comes to movies, too. Gamers are totally engulfed in whatever they like; they spot a turkey movie like they spot a turkey game. They're picky customers."

"Having worked in both mediums, they are very different but both satisfying in different ways. Why pick one over the other?" he asked.

"We may spend hours gaming and be almost physically exhausted, but a great film is an inspiration both visually and emotionally that can carry long beyond the experience."

Conan the Barbarian airs in UK cinemas on 26th August. The movie makers have worked with Funcom to carry the experience across to Age of Conan. Eurogamer interviewed Craig Morrison - executive producer of the MMO - this morning about the Conan the Barbarian cross-over content.

"I personally worked with the Age of Conan team from the start as well as with the whole creative team of the feature film," explained Malmberg. "It was natural for me to introduce Age of Conan to the film design team, play the game with the writer and guide the director through some playfields.

"When I saw [Momoa's] audition tape, doing his Haka or whatever it's called, I was scared. Very scared lol [sic]."

Fredrik Malmberg

"At one point I was discussing the game with Weta Workshop's Richard Taylor, and he said that Didrik's [Tollefesen- art director] team had produced designs on par with his own studio, so I felt pretty happy with that."

Three years on, Age of Conan has ironed out many of the kinks criticised at launch. There's more content now than ever, and the Conan movie-inspired Savage Coast of Turan add-on brings yet more options for characters level 50 and above. By Morrison's own admission, Age of Conan is perfectly poised to benefit from Conan the Barbarian's huge advertising campaign and its effect on cinema-goers world over.

The Conan film will also benefit from Age of Conan, Malmberg insisted.

"I think so," he said. "For example, to rate a movie R is not the easiest [decision] in today's marketplace, but with over a million sold Age of Conan boxes sold in retail it helped to convince us. The gamer audience is an important component of our own, and the action in the film needed that amped up visceral feel you get in the game."

Conan the Barbarian stars Jason Momoa as Conan. Craig Morrison, who's seen the film, wouldn't say whether he preferred Momoa's performance to Arnold Schwarzenegger's as Conan.

"You'll be the judge," answered Malmberg. "But when I saw [Momoa's] audition tape, doing his Haka or whatever it's called, I was scared. Very scared lol [sic]."

"Err, critics?" riposted Malmberg when asked whether his Conan the Barbarian film will win critical adoration. "Not too sure they like what the audience likes when it comes to action films!

"I love this film. It has a great story, fantastic production values and our cast is just doing a great job. You feel like you're on the battlefield. The audience will like the film."

Malmberg confirmed he is "already planning the next film" in the Conan series. "We are pretty confident this will take off," he said.

Game-related films are usually the domain of notorious German film director Uwe Boll (BloodRayne, Far Cry, Alone in the Dark, Postal, House of the Dead, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale). Malmberg reckons Boll has the best intentions at heart when he starts a project.

"I never met Uwe but all I can say is he surely doesn't start out telling his people 'let's make a bad movie'. He probably really likes the games he wants to make a movie about," Malmberg said. "It's just so many people and so many considerations to make a movie; things can go wrong in so many spots."

Uwe Boll hasn't single-handedly ruined the reputation of films adapted from games, however. There's clearly a bigger issue at work.

"Games usually create believable worlds - a canvas to let your characters explore. Successful movies must lock in emotions and stories that people can relate to quickly. Games can have 20-30 hours of story for the audience, when a movie only gets 100 minutes," offered Malmberg. "They're just different mediums.

"The best movie-based games are the ones that don't base them strictly on the movie but roam freely and carefully coincide with plots from the film."

L.A. Noire recently attempted to carry the Heavy Rain torch towards a film-style experience in a game. Malmberg hasn't played L.A. Noire but said someone in his office "felt it was a bit slow at times". Malmberg puts this down to the Film Noir genre being "hard boiled, stylised, slow".

"I love L.A. Noire but it's a tough genre to sell," he said.

Films inspired by the medium of games have been around for years. In the olden days there was The Wizard, and more recent times there's been Scott Pilgrim. There's even a film about Facebook. Does Malmberg think a gigantic event like the PSN hack could ever birth a feature film?

"You mean like WarGames? Well we've had hacking in movies ever since. And this [PSN hack] was on a scale of, what, 60 million accounts or something like it?

"I guess its only a matter of time until Facebook is hacked. I am so inept with tech I have to ask my assistant if an email is safe to open or it its a virus mail. I am just so bad with technical stuff.

"But to answer your question: this incident may not warrant a movie about it, while the behaviour certainly is worthy of reflection. There's a certain feeling of 'I win' that drives hackers and that's a drive as powerful as any other."

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